Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono today reintroduced the Providing Resources Early for Kids (PRE-K) Act (H.R. 702), a bill that establishes a partnership between states and the federal government to improve state-funded preschool programs serving children through age five.
The PRE-K Act would authorize $1 billion a year in federal incentive grants over a five year period to help states strengthen their pre-kindergarten programs. The legislation is intended to support, not supplant, state efforts, and to encourage investment in quality early education.
"The fact that President Obama has made early education a cornerstone of his platform and the growing support from groups and organizations across the spectrum is very encouraging. The PRE-K Act has already been successfully debated and passed out of the House Education and Labor Committee in the last Congress. This bill, which is the product of hours of hearings, discussions, and debate, is in line with the President's strong commitment to early education," said Hirono, who serves as a member of the House Education and Labor Committee.
Congresswoman Hirono initially introduced the PRE-K Act two years ago, during the 110th Congress, and successfully guided it through the House Education and Labor Committee where it was passed last June by a vote of 31-11. The PRE-K Act was one of only 25 bills reported out of committee, out of the 905 bills referred to the committee. Because the bill was not scheduled for a vote on the House floor last year, Congresswoman Hirono reintroduced the bill in this Congress. 56 members of Congress have already signed on as original cosponsors of this year's legislation.
"I am grateful to my colleagues in the House for their continued support of the PRE-K Act, particularly Chairman George Miller of the Education and Labor Committee, and I appreciate their recognition of the kind of difference this legislation will make in the lives of all of our children," said Hirono. "This bill provides a major boost to every state that has established a pre-kindergarten program."
The PRE-K Act is not a federal mandate; it is a grant program that would provide states with funds to improve the quality of their preschool programs. Among other uses, PRE-K Act grant money may be used to increase the number of qualified early educators, improve student-teacher ratios in preschools, or increase the amount of hours per day and weeks per year that families have access to early education. Grant funds may also be spent on vital comprehensive services, such as health screenings and nutritional assistance to preschool students.